The Arab Spring of the West

As you’ve probably noticed by now,  the Arab Spring, the collective name for the protests in the Middle East and North Africa since 18 December last year, has captured the public’s imagination. If you want to remind yourself of the events that constitute the Arab Spring, you could do worse than try the Guardian’s excellent interactive timeline, a snapshot of which is shown below:


This post is not about the Arab Spring per se.There are many other places you can read about it, covered by many people who know far more about it than I do.

While all this has been going on, there’s been a second, much gentler conflagration amongst the digerati. The Blefuscudian question they’ve been trying to address is this: What role did social networks and social media in general play in the Arab Spring? The Big-Endians say Everything, the Little-Endians say Nothing, and while they continue to argue I am sure we will all live happily ever after. This post is not about them either.

What this post is about is a question that’s been troubling me for some time. And that is this: What is the Western equivalent of the Arab Spring? I’ve also been thinking of the natural follow-up question to it: When will it happen?

I may be completely wrong. [If I am, I’m sure you’ll tell me.]


I have a sneaking suspicion that the Arab Spring of the West is already upon us. Why?

The original Arab Spring, the Arab Spring of the Arabs, was about disaffected people, mainly youth, giving vent to their feelings about injustice and inequality and unreasonable behaviour of the powers-that-be, by rising up and challenging the control structures around them.

I guess it’s natural for us to think that there won’t be a Western equivalent, there are no comparable conditions of injustice and inequality and unreasonable behaviour.

Perhaps there aren’t.

But then again, maybe there are.

Disaffected youth.

Giving vent to their feelings.

Feelings spurred by injustice and inequality and unreasonable behaviour.

Rising up to challenge the control structures around them.


It gets me thinking.

The US State Department, Amazon, EveryDNS, Mastercard, Visa, Wikileaks, Assange, Manning…..

Sony, the PlayStation Network, not-Anonymous, Anonymous, hacking of PS3s, GeoHot…..

Super-injunctions, Justice Eady, Lord Chief Justice Judge (really, that’s his name), CTB, NEJ, LNS, JIH and for that matter CDE, FGH and LMN….and all that jazz


Maybe that’s the way the Arab Spring will look in the West. As “traditional” control structures like superinjunctions and DMCA and CFAA are found to be unjust and unreasonable by disaffected youth. As they rise up and challenge the control structures. In the West.

I wonder.

Artificial scarcities tend to get met by artificial abundances. Over time, the artificial scarcities lose. No one, not even Qadhafi, can sustain being a Qadhafi forever.

A coda:  All this talk about scarcity and abundance reminded me of the old Shaw quote:

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”



14 thoughts on “The Arab Spring of the West”

  1. I do believe there is great risk of the a new ‘Cyber Spring’ in the West as the younger generations now defined by the freedom provided by the internet seek to extend that freedom to the real world. This was made alarmingly real by student protestors in the UK, who managed to outsmart the police repeatedly by making use of modern social-media technology and on the fly planning.

    It’s interesting, but the steam is rapidly being lost again.

  2. I’ve been wondering the same things, JP. Perhaps this sort of thing happens every generation? The younger see the world through (hopefully) more optimistic eyes. I know my access to such diverse perspectives online gives me a distinct advantage over my parents, who grew up in small, American towns, being told how to think and act by the church and state (and media).

    Here’s an idea: If you have one idea and I have one idea and we exchange these ideas, together we have FOUR ideas (or even more). :)

  3. Today we were discussing parallel topics on scarcity and abundance, but as relates to customer service & support. Perhaps…

    Scarcity ‘was’ the way – closed knowledgebases, closed communities, closed systems, pay to talk to the company to get your support or service, lack of options, company is in control and defines what you get in their product or service.

    Abundant Voice ‘is’ the way (but scarcity of listening still remains) – strangled by the prior ways of scarcity, consumers rose up in protest and using any channel available from blogs to opinion sites, to online communities, to twitter and facebook and scream their issues at the top of their lungs in the hopes that others will band with them and force the companies to hear them (en masse) and get what they want from product and service companies. But companies are struggling to figure out how to listen with all these voices on so many channels (and its scary unstructured data).

    Abundance ‘will’ be the way – Abundantly speaking combined with a company’s abundance of listening (hearing an individual and collectively hearing groups and trends) will transform the buyer-and-seller into a true partnership where the customer and the product maker are equally balanced in the relationship… where the service consumer and the service provider receive equal value from their participation with one another… where we all truly believe we have a voice, a defining influence, and it shows in the ever-evolving products and services we choose.

    Just a thought….

  4. @topperfalkon that’s what I used to think, until I realised that there were probably small acts of rebellion going on all over the place, stuff that isn’t big enough to make the headlines

  5. @brian but prior generations didn’t have the tools; nor were the laws quite as inane. Hadopi and DMCA and Digital Economy Act and CFAA set new standards in inanity.

  6. @amanda in this context, what did you think of the Toyota Friend announcement? Customers talking to each other, the dealer network, the manufacturer; cars connected; a simple VRM implementation?

Let me know what you think

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